Franklin S. Gladhill

Franklin S. Gladhill
Frank Gladhill (Baltimore Sun)

Franklin S. Gladhill, a Frederick County farmer and community leader whose philanthropic interests included education, hospitals, scholarships and programs that promoted advanced agricultural education, died in his sleep of unknown causes May 27 at his Monrovia farm. He was 87.

"Frank had a generous heart, and Frank was generous in a way that wasn't only about current issues but about the future and what was to come. He wanted to help future generations," said Betsy Day, president of the Frederick Community Foundation.


"You can't talk about Frank without talking about his wife, Bess. They were a team and supported each other. What a loss for our community with his passing," said Ms. Day. "I love them both."

Seymour B. Stern, a Frederick County attorney, knew Mr. Gladhill for more than 40 years.

"Frank was a longtime client of mine, but more importantly, he was one of my very good friends," said Mr. Stern. "He was very kind, very generous and very concerned about other people. He prided himself on being a farmer, an astute businessman and land developer."

The son of Franklin Startzman Gladhill, a farmer and an educator, and Mollie Baker Gladhill, a farmer and a founder of the Washington Women's Farmers' Market, Franklin Saltzman Gladhill was born and raised on his family's farm in Browningsville, Montgomery County.

He was attending Damascus High School when he was drafted and served in the Army from 1945 to 1946. After being discharged, he returned to high school and earned his diploma.

In 1948, Mr. Gladhill married the former Bess Baker, and two years later, the couple purchased their farm in Monrovia.

"In 1951, he drove his first John Deere tractor home from the Montgomery County Fair," said a daughter, Sue T. Gladhill of Annapolis.

By the 1970s, with urban sprawl beginning to invade Monrovia, subdividing land became a sideline business for Mr. Gladhill that in turn brought opportunities to buy and rent more land for crops.

"Developers get a bad reputation at times, but Frank liked being able to develop building lots for people of different economic status so they could find a place to live in Frederick County," said Mr. Stern.

For years, Mr. Gladhill was a dairy farmer. To focus more of his time and energy on community activities, he replaced the dairy herd in 1996 with beef cattle.

Mr. Gladhill chaired the Frederick County Soil Conservation District as well as the Ag-Complex Planning Committee. He was a member of the state and local Farm Bureaus and the Frederick County Agricultural Society, and had served on the board of the Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Association.

He had been an active member of the Grange, Retired Dairy Farmers, Montgomery County Grain Club. In 2005, Mr. Gladhill and his wife were named Master Farmers.

For 15 years, he was a member of the Frederick County Planning Commission and chaired the Maryland Well Drillers Association Licensing Board.

Mr. Gladhill supported programs that advanced agricultural education. He and his wife endowed the Gladhill Presidential Scholarship Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, where their name adorns the Health Services and Human Services Library.


"Frank gave major money to the University of Maryland, Baltimore," said former Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens, who was a longtime friend. "He was short of stature but was such a shrewd businessman and farmer who loved the land. He was plain-spoken, shrewd and savvy, and always had a twinkle in his eye."

Through the Frederick Community Foundation, Mr. Gladhill and his wife supported Frederick Memorial Hospital, which presented them its Good Samaritan Award, as well as Frederick Community College and Frederick County's public schools.

"Because Frank and Bess made their living in agriculture, they endowed an agricultural class in Frederick County public dchools. They wanted students to know that you just didn't run to the grocery store and pick it up," said Ms. Day. "They wanted them to know what it entails, that it came from seeds and animals."

"He was a good listener," recalled Mr. Stern. "I can count on one hand the times we have disagreed over the last 40 years."

Mr. Gladhill also served on the board of Goodwill Industries.

"He was very concerned about people with disabilities and helped with funding for our local Goodwill Industries that provided job training for the disabled and helping them have a better quality of life," said Ms. Day. "He focused on the youth, the less fortunate and agriculture."

She said she came to rely on Mr. Gladhill's advice.

"He kept me out of a few mud puddles over the last 20 years," she said with a laugh. "He always gave wise counsel and always had an encouraging word. He was generous with his time, not just his resources."

He was a member of Mountain View United Methodist Church in Damascus and the Sons of the American Revolution.

Mr. Gladhill enjoyed raising emus and had visited 49 of the 50 states with his wife.

"Continuing his philanthropic legacy, he has donated his body to the Anatomy Board of Maryland for scientific research," his daughter said.

Services are private.

In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Gladhill is survived by two other daughters, Donna Winch of Harrisburg, Pa., and Lori Marks of Buckeystown; and four grandchildren.